If you are from North America, chances are, you had to study the War of 1812 in history class. Way back when the British and French had control of most of North America and slowly ideas, government and people wanted change. The south became the United States of America, while the North wanted to remain loyal to the King of England. In a nutshell, tensions flared and border disputes began in what was known as the War of 1812. It lasted over 2 -1/2 years in and around the Niagara area. It stretched as far north as present day Toronto and as far south as present day Washington DC. Names like Laura Secord, Sir Isaac Brock and John Brant are well known even today as companies, universities, cities or streets and monuments that were resurrected in their honour.
Part of North American culture is reenactments of such wars for history buffs. I had heard about them, but never witnessed one. The battle of Chippewa, a small area outside of Niagara Falls, Ontario was hosting a 200th anniversary of the Battle of Chippewa and we decided to attend. It was more than just a short lived reenacted battle, but a full on affair.
When we first arrived white canvas tents dotted the bike path with men and women in period costume selling trinkets, foods and other antiques or replicas of period pieces. Soon shots were fired and the battle was about to begin. In the same location as the original battle men (and women) in costume lined up on the battle filed and fired guns and cannons. The traditional method of lining up in rows as each group fired and another loaded up. Some fell, as they had been ‘shot’ so lines retreated and then moved forward again. Orders were shouted and soldiers complied. The smell of sulfur and smoke filled the air. It felt like we stepped back in history as we watched authentic methods put to use.
When the battle was over we walked around the rows of tents that were filled with quilts, lamb skin and old fashioned wash basins. Traditional cast iron cooking utensils and open air fires were in view, as this was more than a display, but a working camp. What surprised me most was how they really went all out with the smallest of details.
Events like this are often held at the various forts around the Niagara Region on both sides of the border, especially since it has been the 200th anniversary, which is now winding down. Smaller locations, like this in a farmer’s fields are also occasionally held. A knowledgeable speaker gave a play by play of events to explain the process to inform the crowd. What was best about this –it was free! What an interesting way to learn history and spend a Sunday afternoon.
Don’t forget about the 2 challenges held for Tourist in Your Own Town. June was Festivals & Gatherings and July is Home. This could be a response for Festivals & Gatherings AND Home. If you would like to participate add a link in your blog to this one here and tell us about it in the comment section below.